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Allison on Freedom and Idealism

  • Ralf Meerbote (a1)


Henry Allison over the years has produced important work on Kant's transcendental idealism of the objects of our empirical knowledge as well as on Kant's conception and defence of the freedom of rational agency. He has done so both in two major books (Kant's Transcendental Idealism, 1983; and Kant's Theory of Freedom, 1990) and in a string of articles. Most recently, his continuing refinements of a number of interrelated themes prominent in his two books, together with discussions of some other issues, have provided the material for the publication of a collection of papers, Idealism and Freedom) Ten of the twelve essays included in this collection have already appeared elsewhere, but it is gratifying to have them, together with two additions, all available in their present form. Allison's debates, both with himself and with his critics, help increase our understanding of his views and hence of Kant's as well.



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1 Idealism and Freedom: Essays on Kant's Theoretical and Practical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). The views of Allison's which I discuss below can all be found in this work.

2 In ‘Kantian idealism today’, History of Philosophy Quarterly, 9 (1992), 329–40.

3 In ‘Two perspectives on Kant's appearances and things in themselves’, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 33 (1994), 411–41.

4 See her Kant's Transcendental Psychology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).

5 In ‘Kant on the nondeterminate character of human actions’, Harper, Wm. L. and Meerbote, Ralf (eds.), Kant on Causality, Freedom, and Objectivity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984); ‘Apperception and objectivity’, Southern Journal of Philosophy, 25 (Spindel Conference Supplement, 1987), 115–30; ‘Kant's functionalism’, in Smith, J-C. (ed.), Historical Foundations of Cognitive Science (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1989); ‘Systematicity and realism in Kant's transcendental idealism’, Southern Journal of Philosophy, 30 (Spindel Conference Supplement, 1992), 129–37; ‘Space and time and objects in space and time’, Cummins, Ph. and Zoeller, G. (eds.), Minds, Ideas, and Objects (Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview, 1992); and ‘Function and purpose in Kant's theory of knowledge’, Proceedings of the Eighth International Kant Congress, ed. H. Robinson (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1995), vol.1, pp.845–61.

6 For an excellent recent discussion of such matters, see Howell, Robert, Kant's Transcendental Deduction (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1992).

7 Again see ibid., as well as my review of Howell's work, in Mind 103 (1994), 93–7.

8 e.g. in his Prolegomena §13, General Remark III (Akademie edition, 4: 290–4).

9 In the Critique of Pure Reason, Bxxvi-xxvii.

10 See n. 3 above.

11 By Guyer, Paul, in his Kant and the Claims of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) and by Howell, Transcendental Deduction.

12 If, in his argument, Allison intends to be postulating an intellectual intuition in order to achieve an alternate and complete set of epistemic conditions, then that argument is no longer a merely abstracting move since he would be introducing a new and different condition of representation even if only a ‘problematic’ one.

13 In the Critique of Pure Reason, A235/B294–A260/B315.

14 Howell, Transcendental Deduction, has stressed the importance of Kant's 1770 ontological-independence view for his Critical doctrines. For the pre-Criticai Kant, the requirements of the pure understanding would seem to be Allisonian ontological conditions or consequences of such conditions. At the same time, the question whether Kant in the 1780s thought of the logical functions of the understanding as ontological rather than epistemic deserves to be investigated in its own right.

15 In his 1990 work.

16 Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994. Allison's review of Hudson can be found in Philosophical Review, 105 (1996), 125–7.

17 In Philosophical Review, 101 (1992), 862–5.

18 Critique of Pure Reason, A402 and B422. In the first of these two passages, however, Kant also refers to the thinking subject (in contrast to the determining self) as determinable, something which Allison does not mention.

19 I am here in complete agreement with Hudson. See his review of Allison's 1990 work, in Kant-Studien, 82 (1991), 219–22.

20 Allison attempts a number of detailed arguments against both Kitcher and anomalous monism which I cannot go into here, except to say that they all at bottom turn on his belief that the views in question wind up withholding genuine explanatory power from apperception-talk.

21 There is a complication with regard to ‘phenomenal substance': anomalous monism calls for a token-identity between non-phenomenal and phenomenal types. This does not require the numerical identity of a phenomenal substance. But this is not the issue which engages Allison.

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Allison on Freedom and Idealism

  • Ralf Meerbote (a1)


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